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Monroe County hears economic update

WOODSFIELD — Monroe County officials heard an update Monday on economic development in the county over the past year, as well as plans for the future.

Jason Hamman, economic development representative for the county, provided an update to a room full of county officials during the Monroe County Board of Commissioners meeting. Since filling the role as economic developer for the county in 2016, Hamman has secured $43.5 million in grants and other sources of funding for a variety of projects that aided in economic development.

“Grants and other sources of funding are critical for economic development to be successful, especially in a rural Appalachian county like Monroe,” he said. “… Since 2016, county sales tax revenues through year to date total about $26.7 million to put that on par. Economic development has brought in 88% of the total county sales tax revenue since 2016.”

There are also a number of grant applications pending for around $9 million — $900,000 through the Ohio Department of Development for asbestos abatement and demolition of the former Beallsville and Clarington schools and $8.1 million for subsurface demolition work at Long Ridge Energy Terminal.

Hamman went on to talk about some of the projects that have received funding and are in the works. One of those is Project Connect, which includes the installation of three wireless communication towers in Clarington, Hannibal and Sardis. The county was awarded an $800,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant along with a $300,000 match from commissioners.

“In addition to providing high-speed wireless internet, there will also be opportunities to secure cell phone carriers on these towers, and they’ll provide coverage for essentially the whole riverfront area of the county,” he said.

Contractor selection is set to take place in January or February.

“2023 is going to be the year of sticking shovels in the ground, and I cannot be anymore excited by that,” he said.

In response to a question posed by county Engineer Amy Zwick, Hamman clarified that the exact locations of the towers will be at Sikes Ridge in Clarington, Hill Stop Estate in Hannibal, and at the Lee Township property behind the former head start building in Sardis.

“The cell towers will not only serve Monroe County, but the coverage will actually reach across the (Ohio) river,” he said, adding that sites were strategically selected to reduce cost, are at the highest elevated points available and include coverage for industrial customers along the river.

The Powhatan No. 7 barge cells project is set to begin construction in March or April. Hamman said they have secured a total of around $1.5 million in grant funds for that project. He said they also plan to install an access road with a cost of $1.4 million. The road installation is set to go out to bid early next year.

Earlier this year, the county was awarded $4 million from the Ohio Department of Transportation to construct a barge dock at the Powhatan No. 7 property. This will offer current and future tenants the option of loading on and off barges in addition to road and rail access on Monroe County Port Authority property. The engineer and design work will begin this month.

Hamman spoke about the continued growth of American Heavy Plates, which leases property at the county-owned Hannibal Industrial Park. He said since it acquired the property earlier this year, the company has leased an additional 50,000-square-feet with more in the works, leading to new jobs.

Hamman said they have four active tenant prospects for around 400,000 square feet of property at the Industrial Park, which could create 150-200 jobs. He said they are in the process of negotiating lease rates.

Hamman said they are working with JobsOhio and Newlight Technologies on a project at Long Ridge Energy Terminal.

“Back in July, they (Newlight Technologies) publicly announced a partnership with CNX to construct a new facility at Long Ridge Energy Terminal. Newlight manufactures products from a renewable source. They have products for sale now at stores like Target, such as drinking straws that are made out of renewable material. It’s the first of its kind facility,” he said.

The $300 million project would provide around 95 full-time jobs with an average salary of $70,000 annually. He said they have a phone call with the company in late January. He said he will keep officials posted on any updates.

In September, the county was awarded a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce for water infrastructure upgrades. The funds will relocate and upgrade a 3,700-foot water main in the county, providing reliable water service to local businesses.

The Monroe County Port Authority owns eight properties in the county with around 250 acres — 220 of which are riverfront — and has 17 tenants creating 200 total jobs.

“Some of the active prospects we have right now, we have another 150 to 200 jobs pending. And when you look at the size of our labor force, that is significant. The civilian labor force in Monroe County is probably around 4,000-5,000 so that’s like a 5% jump,” he said.

“… On a percentage basis, what we’re doing here rivals any big city. I’m very proud of that.”

In other matters, Commissioners Mick Schumacher, Bill Bolon and Diane Burkhart awarded the bar screen project for the Monroe County Jail to the low bidder, Ohio-West Virginia Excavating Co. for $421,000.

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